Off on a Tangent
A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope College Department of Mathematics
  March 14, 2011 Vol. 9, No. 12

The focus of tomorrow's colloquium is on the statistical analysis of baseball

Title: Student Projects: Statistical Analysis of Baseball
Speaker: John Gabrosek, Grand Valley State University
Time:  Tuesday, March 15 at 4 p.m.
Place:  VWF 104

Abstract: The use of statistical summaries and models to measure player and team performance in professional baseball has exploded over the last 30 years with the popularity of Fantasy (formerly Rotisserie) baseball leagues and the publication of the book Moneyball.  In this talk I present work done in collaboration with undergraduate statistics students to assess team and player performance.  The first half of the talk will discuss a Markov Model that takes advantage of the discrete nature of baseball.  The second half of the talk will focus on a statistic that measures pitcher within-game recovery as pitch count increases. 

After Spring Break: Mathematics Biology Colloquium

Title: Will the meek inherit the earth?  Insights into the evolution of behavior and life history in response to predators
Speaker: Clay Cressler, The University of Michigan
Time:  Thursday, March 31 at 4 p.m.
Place:  VWF 104

Abstract:  Is it better to be big and bold, or small and meek?  Both strategies are common in nature, but can the same selective force lead to both outcomes?  Using adaptive dynamics theory, I explore how the dynamic interaction among predators, resources, and individual life history can lead a species towards either strategy, or towards both at the same time.


The 35th Annual Lower Michigan Mathematics Competition will be held at Kalamazoo College this year on Saturday, April 2.  Students from colleges and universities in Michigan will gather to challenge themselves on 10 interesting problems, working together in teams of up to three people. The competition takes place in the morning and after lunch there is a discussion of the solutions.  

You must sign-up by Wednesday, March 16
either on Prof. Cinzori's door (VWF 216) or send him an email at  You may register as a team (of two or three) or individually (and you will be placed on a team).

It has been a few years since Hope has held possession of the Klein Bottle Trophy and it is time to bring it back to campus!


Math Online:  What pi sounds like

Since today is Pi Day, we thought you might be interested in what pi sounds like.  There are a number of videos on You Tube where people have tried to put the number pi to music.  We thought that the video by Michael John Blake found here was one of the best.

Other things to do today:  

Problem Solvers of the Fortnight

Last week’s PotF:  A new elementary school teacher wants to stock her in-class library, but, since she is a recent graduate and therefore somewhat destitute, she has very little capital.  Imagine her delight when she comes across a plethora of children’s books at a church rummage sale!  They have boxes and boxes of paperbacks with a price tag of 4 for $1.  Then there are many short hard cover books on a shelf tagged $1 each.  Finally, she sighs wistfully at the shelf containing beautiful, early edition hard covers for $15 each.  She withdraws $100 from the cash machine and gets busy with her selections.  Determine all of the ways she can buy exactly 100 books with exactly $100.
The following students gave correct solutions of 100-$1 books or 3-$15 books, 41-$1 books, and 56-$0.25 books: Elizabeth Billquist, Tim Lewis, Kaily Gumpper, Kristen Slotman, Danielle Mila, Meagan Elinski, Jeff Shade, Liz Nelis, Emily Scott, Kyle McLellan, Cornelius Smits, Sarah Prill, Matt Eiles, Morgan Bell, Jennie LaRoche, Megan Ludwig, Nicole Zeinstra, XiSen Hou, Nathan Graber, Candace Goodson, Daniel Langholz, Sneha Goswami, Megan Kelley, Lauren Aprill, Rebecca Budde, Feliz Kikaya, David McMorris, Cortney Kimmel, Joshua Borycz, Daniel Simpson, David Jenkins, and Mike Heydlauff.

Problem of the Fortnight

A certain dodecahedron has edges of length 10 cm.  If a fly lands on a vertex of this dodecahedron and then walks along only the edges, what is the greatest distance the fly could walk before coming to a vertex a second time and without retracing an edge?  Justify that your solution is optimal.

Write a complete solution (not just the answer) on a dodecahedron and drop it off in the Official Problem of the Fortnight Slot outside VWF 212 by 3:00 pm on Wednesday, March 30.  As always, be sure to include your name, the name(s) of your professor(s), and your math class(es) -- e.g. Moe Mentum, Dr. Senor Moment, Math 112 -- on your solution. 

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. 

Anne Bradstreet

Off on a Tangent